Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hornchurch, Essex; Organized by Advance Music

Advance Music is one of the biggest suppliers of printed music, musical instruments and accessories in East London, Essex, Kent, Barking and the southeast of England. This, unusually, was a Sunday morning workshop and it was held actually in the store. A good-sized and enthusiastic group of teachers turned up for a 9.30 am start and were treated to a game of two halves – a presentation on the Microjazz series and related Boosey & Hawkes books, as well as a presentation called Unlocking Popular Styles, which featured American Popular Piano.

Advance Music had an impressive display of my music for people to look at:

All of the teachers knew about Microjazz, but many were unaware of the Microstyles Collection, the Concert Collections and the Preludes Collections. I played pieces from these, as well as from the new “Micro” books (MicroLatin, MicroRock and MicroSwing)

I also showed clips culled from Youtube of my pieces played by students from China, Canada and the Czech Republic – this was of course of great interest to the audience.

I played some easier pieces from the Microjazz Collections, like Struttin’ and Intercity stomp, I then got splendid help from a teacher with the repeated left hand part of In the Bag from the Microstyles Collection. I played Dreaming On from the Rock Preludes Collection (a set piece for Grade 5 for the ABRSM this year) and I finally played some more difficult pieces, like Turkey in the Straw and Joy to the World from the Concert Collection. Here is me in my usual “blissed out” performing mode – yes, my eyes are closed!

I also told teachers to visit and also to look at my new Youtube channel – The Pianist magazine profile and series of articles on popular piano styles was also mentioned (

Lots of books were perused and bought during an excellent morning tea break, which included delicious shortbread (I can vouch for that!)

In Part 2, I gave a quick over-view of American Popular Piano, then launched into Unlocking Popular Piano. This was a live version of what is now available to peruse on - 20 popular piano styles “unpacked”. I had the teachers clapping, “drumming” and vocalizing drum parts and this practical approach helped many of them to understand what the styles feel like to play as well as to listen to. Here is part of the audience, very attentive!

I also touched on the difficulty in the modern world of keeping piano students motivated and how important it is to try to give them music they can relate to and to encourage improvisation without too much theory getting in the way, at least in the early stages. This was the first time the teachers in Hornchurch had ever heard of American Popular Piano, so it was quite a lot for them to take in, but I felt the essence of the series – learning to enjoy playing through using contemporary popular styles, ensemble playing (including tracks) and step-by-step improvisation – was clear by the end of the presentation.

Thanks again to Colin Freeman at Advance Music for being prepared to put this event on. I hope to get back at some point and see how teachers are getting on with all these new ideas!

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